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Manic Street Preachers

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Since they were fully launched on the world in December 1990, with the classic Heavenly single "Motown Junk", the Manic Street Preachers have extended the emotional possibilities of pop. Through a sequence of fourteen top 40 singles and three acclaimed albums - "Generation Terrorists", "Gold Against The Soul" and "The Holy Bible", the group have explored a new generational map: countering their disgust and horror at the state of the world with a furious, excoriating intelligence and powerful, passionate music.

On February 1st 1995, everything stopped for the Manic Street Preachers when guitarist, lyricist and - for many people - the group figurehead Richey James disappeared, on the eve of a promotional visit to the US. Despite a volume of publicity and a careful police search, there has been no track of Richey James since. His disappearance remains unsolved.

This came as a total shock. Although the Manic Street Preachers had always been brutally honest about their self-destructive tendencies (whether individually or as a group), they were also a very tight unit: friends from childhood, very supporting and caring of each other, Richey James' unexpected disappearance broke a very strong bond: as Nicky Wire now says, "there wasn't a day during the last five years when I didn't speak to him".

The remaining three Manic Street Preachers have been placed in an impossible position: they don't know whether their friend and colleague is dead or alive. They cannot grieve nor can they resolve the hurt, anger and loss that they feel. Nothing is certain. There are no presidents: this has never happened before. And they have to conduct themselves within the glare of the international media, not knowing how to make sense of what has happened - indeed, not even knowing what has happened.

When it became clear that there would be no quick resolution to the mystery of Richey James' disappearance, James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire decided to continue the Manic Street Preachers as a three piece. Their first act was to support the Stone Roses at Wembley Arena on 29th December 1995, after which they went to Normandy to record the seventeen tracks that include the new single "A Design For Life", and form the basis for the new album, "Everything Must Go".

Although the album does contain some lyrics by Richey - "Removeables", "Kevin Carter" and "Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky", the bulk have been written by Nicky Wire: a fact that subsequent events have tended to obscure. That is not to say that the Manic Street Preachers are the same as they were: as Wire now says, "Richey was black and I was white". The first product of these sessions, "A Design For Life", is at once consolidatory and hopeful: returning the Manic Street Preachers to the inspirations and enthusiasms of their youth in Blackwood.

I've been fascinated by the Manic Street Preachers ever since I first saw them at a Heavenly Records Christmas Party in December 1990: they were explosive; androgynous; disgusted - a riot of slogans, contradictions and eyeliner. If I had to describe them in one word, it would be BRAVE. Like all the great pop groups, the Manic Street Preachers have put their lives into their work: faced now with a situation that is unique in pop, they have returned to the only thing that they can possibly do: to make music with all the emotion and courage that they can muster. I salute them.

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